To Look on Death No More

Written by Leta Serafim
Review by Ellen Keith

Although many historical novels have been written about the Second World War, this is the first I’ve read that’s set in Greece, concerning the war’s effect on that country. Serafim’s To Look on Death No More tells a painful but engrossing story about Germany’s assault on the Greek isles. It is told through the eyes of an outsider, Irishman Brendan O’Malley, a doctor who had enlisted in the British forces and is parachuted into Greece to create an airstrip. Wounded in his fall, he’s held prisoner by Danae, a young Greek woman, and her even younger brother Stefanos.

O’Malley takes to Danae and Stefanos, and when Stefanos is witness to a German soldier’s shooting in their village, Kalavyrta, the Irishman hides with the young boy among the Greek resistance, the antartes. Tragedy after tragedy befalls this group, both from in-fighting and at the hands of the Germans. The innocent villagers of Kalavyrta are the targets of the Germans’ revenge on the antartes. Serafim has written devastating descriptions of the ruthless violence that is inflicted on the women, men, and children. The attitude of O’Malley’s British superiors towards the carnage is as chilling as the Germans’ actions. What saves the novel from a feeling of complete despair is O’Malley’s love for Danae and his growing love of her country. This aspect of the war was unknown to me before this book. It’s as important as the Blitz and the occupation of Paris, and Serafim makes me want to learn more.